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A Publication
on The Status of
Adivasi Populations
of India




License To Kill

By Srestha Banerjee

25 November, 2014

November 24, Missouri , USA: On August 9, Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager in Ferguson, Missouri was shot and killed by a white police officer, Darren Wilson. Offence: Though Wilson blamed it on Michael and claimed that it was a scuffle over his gun that made him shoot, accounts largely differ on who started the altercation. Michael who was taught a “lesson” by 6 rounds of fire of course could not offer any defense. The shooting sparked protests in the area for weeks. The grand jury in the case, finally on November 24 acquitted Wilson of the charges.

An autopsy as requested by the family Michael and conducted by the former chief medical examiner for the City of New York, showed that he was shot at least six times. The same was suggested by another autopsy conducted by a military doctor as part of an investigation by the Justice Department. Local officials have not yet released their report on the initial autopsy.

Michael Brown probably has little relevance to all of us. A black teenager- almost surely to be a social nuisance demands little attention or sympathy. The “grand” jury comprising of 9 white and 3 black representatives just acted on logically on another matter has been the legacy of the black people. And the legacy holds in India too. Thus Michael just does not remain just as a name and another statistics in a far away land.

Rewind about a week

November 16, Kolkata, India: A “man” (later identified as Korban Sha) in his early 30’s, was brutally lynched, allegedly bobbitised and killed by a group of medical students of a "renowned institute" in Kolkata, West Bengal. Offence: “Suspected” to be a cell-phone thief- a reason enough to justify the brutality. As reported in a prominent news journal- quoting- “A junior doctor, who claimed he was not at the incident spot, seemed to justify the lynching. A minimum 50-60 laptops and mobile phones have been stolen over the past one year. In monetary value, it would be over Rs.20 lakh. We made repeated complaints to the authorities, but the thefts were going on and on. We were enraged. And anything can happen in the heat of the moment, the junior doctor said”. Korban too like Michael holds the “legacy of wrong-doing” of the “laborers”- who are there to toil for us as distance subjects.

While a death comes easily at the heat of the moment for “Michaels” or “Korbans”, justice never comes. So after nearly four months, when the killer of Michael is set free to roam around proudly as the guard of justice, what justice will be delivered to Korban now remains a question mark. The community of students that just a few weeks earlier thronged the streets of Kolkata demanding justice for a fellow female students insult (which must be rightly so), sadly awaits justice for Korban silently.

Our immediate social existence today tries to reflect that we are part of a more equitable society- where questions of racial, class and caste hierarchy has little relevance. Our treatment of Michaels and Korbans are not a reflection of any bias or discrimination, but a rational act that we are entitled to exercise in the name of civil conduct. And such rationality lets us to choose our moments of protest, moments of silence and procure licenses to kill.

Srestha Banerjee is a researcher at the Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi working in the area of environmental governance & advocacy